A World in Focus

In our ongoing recognition of an institution that works to preserve and celebrate traditional textiles, our hats are tipped this month to the Fowler Museum at the University of California Los Angeles.  The Fowler’s mission is to enhance understanding and appreciation of diverse peoples and cultures of the world through its exhibitions and public programs. And it does!

Ceremonial sword and sheath from the Yoruba peoples, Nigeria. Fowler Museum at UCLA.

Fowler in Focus

The Fowler’s holdings include more than 120,000 art and ethnographic pieces and 600,000 archaeological objects representing ancient, traditional, and contemporary cultures of Africa, Native and Latin America, and Asia and the Pacific. More than 20,000 textiles trace the history of cloth over two millennia and across five continents. From a Yoruba ceremonial sword and sheath to ancient Peruvian textile fragments and elaborate textiles of Indonesia, the Fowler’s collections offer a comprehensive resource for exhibitions and scholarship.

Corner fragment of a textile with birds. Chancay culture, Peru 1150–1450 CE. Fowler Museum at UCLA

Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives is part of a long-term installation that celebrates the richness of world arts and considers the roles these works of art play in peoples’ lives. “Fowler in Focus” is a gallery within the Intersections exhibit dedicated to rotating installations drawn from the Fowler’s substantial collections. Changing three times per year “Fowler in Focus,” has included exceptional exhibitions, such as Spirits in the Loom: Religion and Design in Lao-Tai Textiles and The Spun Universe: Wixárika (Huichol) Yarn Paintings.

Fowler in Focus
Silk shoulder cloth from West Sumatra Province, Indonesia, 19th century. Fowler Museum at UCLA.


The Anawalt Center for the Study of Regional Dress located within the Fowler Museum advances the study of cloth and clothing traditions, past and present, through teaching and research. Students work with the Museum’s standout textile collections to investigate worldwide indigenous dress. This includes the role of dress in defining social, religious, and political identities, among several other wide-ranging topics. Through the Center, students are offered a course called “Textiles of the World” where they explore many of the world’s great textile-producing cultures. This hands-on class allows students the opportunity to learn the basics of weaving and also to work with samples from the Fowler’s extensive collection of ethnographic textiles.

If you can’t visit in person—although it’s so worth the trip—you can view many of the collections in a superb online gallery. Enjoy!


All photos courtesy of the Fowler Museum.

Thrums Books–the world in textiles
Available at Amazon, ClothRoads, and at your favorite book shop

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